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Model Rule 4.3

Reporter’s Explanation of Changes


1. Add prohibition on giving legal advice to unrepresented persons

Under the ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility, DR 7-104(A)(2), a lawyer was prohibited from giving advice to an unrepresented person, other than the advice to secure counsel. This statement is presently contained in the Comment to Model Rule 4.3. Although the cases generally perceive no change of substance in the Rule, it has been reported that, in negotiations between lawyers and unrepresented parties, the giving of legal advice (often misleading or overreaching) is not uncommon. Of the jurisdictions that have adopted the Model Rules, 11 have included a textual provision similar to the prohibition on giving legal advice in the Model Code.

The reason for the initial decision to delete the Model Code prohibition from text was the difficulty of determining what constitutes impermissible advice-giving. The Commission recommends that language be included in the Comment that addresses the application of the textual prohibition in some common situations. Although the line may be difficult to draw, it is important to discourage lawyers from overreaching in their negotiations with unrepresented persons.

2. Limit prohibition on advice-giving to situations where unrepresented person’s interests may be in conflict with client

Following the practice of the majority of states that have adopted a textual prohibition on advice-giving, the Commission recommends restricting the prohibition to situations where the lawyer knows or has reason to know that the unrepresented person’s interests "are or have a reasonable possibility of being in conflict with the interests of the client."


[1] The Commission is proposing three changes in this paragraph. First, a sentence has been added to indicate that, in order to avoid misunderstandings, a lawyer will typically need to identify the lawyer’s client and, where necessary, explain that the client has interests opposed to those of the unrepresented person. The second is the deletion of the general statement on advice-giving, in recognition that a similar statement now appears in the text. Finally, a cross-reference to Rule 1.13(d) has been added.

[2] A second Comment has been added to give guidance on what constitutes impermissible advice-giving. It first explains the rationale for limiting the prohibition to persons whose interests may be in conflict with the client’s. It then attempts to distinguish between the permitted supplying of information and the impermissible giving of legal advice in negotiations and settlement discussions.

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